Whether you are leading a major initiative, trying to get your team to the next level, or attempting to corral a group of volunteers, there are three important steps every leader needs to apply to ensure a positive outcome and invested participants.

They are the 3 Fs — fuel, focus, and feedback.

Let’s look at each.

When I speak of fuel, I’m referring to the energy needed to motivate, activate, and drive the challenge at hand. Successful managers inject optimism and enthusiasm for the work they oversee. Weaker leaders announce new initiatives with phrases like, “I know we are all overworked” or “You may not like what I have to say.” As you read this, you’re probably saying, “No one ever says that!” I wish it were true but I guarantee you, I have witnessed just these kinds of openers many, many times.

Fuel as positive energy would begin with, “I’m excited to share with you a new project this group has been selected to work on” or “ Many of you have been asking me for work that uses all of your abilities or has a higher profile, I think we have just been given it.” This has a burst of energy; it talks with assuredness and tells people what is in it for them as well as the group. For some managers, speaking this way is a bit out of character and may take more showmanship than they think they have. I accept it may be harder but it’s not impossible. The approach requires a positive mindset of which we’re all capable of with determination and practice. Without it, you are almost guaranteed a lackluster performance and a mediocre outcome.

Next is focus. One of the dangers of wild enthusiasm can be scattered efforts and misguided intentions. Once the manager has the team excited, he/she needs to get them clear on the essentials of the project and the target. As foolish as it might appear projects with names tends to be longstanding and have clearer direction. Think of NASA and the variety of names it has given missions and components — Curiosity, Apollo, and Mercury. Each conjures up ideas and destinations. It is not a bad tactic to encourage the group to choose a name. It also takes one more task off your to do list.

Once you have named the program, the focus needs to be on determining and defining benchmarks — time, dollars, deliverables, and of course, outcomes. Too many organizations talk solely about the results while failing to analyze and discuss the “how to.” They rarely take into account what would happen if the original goal was wrong or new opportunities present? Are they ignored or overlooked? These are only a few of the pitfalls of rigid end points.

Focus should be so clear that every member of the team is able to explain the project in a sentence or two. All involved need an overview, even if they will be working on a minute detail early in the game. Without this long and broad perspective, the opportunity for team building is lost and interest generally wanes. Most people want to be part of something bigger and with more faces. Let’s give each of them at least a decent peek.

Finally there’s feedback. I can’t you tell how often executive coaching clients tell me they’re “not sure what the outcome was” or “what happened to that program?” Feedback and updates, scheduled and informal, written and verbal, positive and bad news are essential components of communicating to a group. Create an information vacuum and the fuel you’ve injected cannot burn and the focus is disrupted. Many managers forget that feedback can be positive (there needs to be much more of that), negative (constructive) and informational, meaning neutral but fact-full. Good leaders are constantly giving feedback at all levels and in many ways. It helps them and their people feel connected and good about themselves, and assists contributors with staying the course.

Here’s your challenge. The next time you begin a project layout the 3 Fs — fuel, focus, and feedback. Ask yourself how you are going to make sure each one of these aspects is incorporated into you efforts. Share with participants your 3Fs context and encourage them to contribute. At a few points in the process, assess yourself, “Have I continued to fuel the engine?” “Are we focused — long and short-term?” “How do I know this?” and “How often, and to whom, have I given and accepted feedback?”

(c) Jane Cranston.

Author's Bio: 

Jane Cranston is an executive career coach. She works with success-driven executives, managers and leaders to reach their potential, better manage their boss and staff, as well as develop a career strategy to reach goals and aspirations. Jane is the author of Great Job in Tough Times a step-by-step job search system. Click here to subscribe to her twice monthly Competitive Edge Report.